McLIBEL APPEAL - WEEK 3
DAY 9 - 27th January 1999
In court they explained that they needed further time set aside for preparation for the appeal as they had a backlog of written work to complete, and this week they were also expected to somehow complete a mammoth task of preparing for the presentation of their case on why they should have won outright on each of the issues in the trial which the judge had failed to find in their favour. It was not possible for them to get this preparation done at the weekends as Helen works Friday and Saturday nights, and Dave is a full-time single parent.
They were suffering from stress and lack of sleep, they explained. They also stated that they had not had time to arrange any meeting with legal advisors for ages. 'We are trying our best to comply with the court's wishes and directions but believe that it is not in our interest or in the public interest that one side is inadequately prepared, and under continuous pressure as litigants in person, especially in the light of the inequality of arms and arguing power when compared to the fully resourced Respondents.'
The Lord Justices Pill, May and Keane refused the application, and the hearing continued straight away despite the defendants being unprepared.
The defendants were questioned in detail about the character of the London Greenpeace 1986 Factsheet 'What's Wrong With McDonald's? Everything They Don't Want You To Know', and the meaning of each section. They explained that its purpose was to alert the public to what lies behind the expensively manufactured image of the McDonald's Corporation and the whole food industry. It was clear that the leaflet was critical of multinationals in general and the harm to society and the planet caused by a system based on profit rather than people's needs. The defendants argued that such literature was performing a valuable public service and should be protected from libel suits.
Richard Rampton QC appeared to have shot himself in the foot after he argued that it was too late for the defendants to complain about the trial Judge's controversial interpretation of the 'nutrition' section of the factsheet - the links between McDonald's food, diet and long term ill-health. He said that they had already made an appeal on this during the trial and had failed to get the Judge's decision overturned, so it must stand. A great legal controversy arose when the defendants pointed out that not all of the appeal points had been looked into during the previous appeal and that in any event, the trial Judge himself had later amended his meaning, and therefore they had the right to appeal against his final determination. By law a Judge is not entitled to change a decision made in a higher court, so his final determination of the nutrition meaning may be void!
DAY 10 - 28th January 1999
Nevertheless, the defendants case was that:
More specifically, and as an example of the strength of their case, the defendants referred to some of the evidence about Brazil. It was admitted during the trial that Brazilian beef had been exported for McDonald's stores in the UK, Switzerland, Argentina and Uruguay. And in Brazil itself, McDonald's had been forced to reveal that for the last 20 years their local stores had been using beef raised in regions where defence experts testified that indigenous people and small farmers had been forcibly evicted. In particular, defence expert Professor Hecht, who has conducted extensive field research in the relevant regions supplying McDonald's beef, had stated that 'I am certain that a substantial proportion of cattle supplied to Cuiaba meat plants (1979-82) and to Goias Carne for the last 20 years (up till now) would have been cattle from rainforest areas.'
However, Mr Justice Bell had disregarded the views of the defence experts (despite McDonald's not calling any experts of their own), and ruled that these areas mostly weren't ex-rainforest by his definition, and that in any case McDonald's couldn't be responsible for their clearance. The defendants argued that this was a clear example of the way the trial judge discriminated in favour of McDonald's throughout the trial, despite the obvious fact that almost all McDonald's witnesses were in the financial gambit or control of the company, in contrast to the genuinely independent defence witnesses.
The defendants briefly referred to their extensive written submissions summarising the many cases of such discrimination and bias by Mr Justice Bell contained throughout his judgment on each issue. [This matter will be dealt with at greater length later on in the Appeal.]
The Lord Justices, decided that the next day in court would be the following Wednesday (3rd February) to allow some extra time for the parties' preparations.